Salesforce.com's Heroku rolls out new cloud database options

Two new tiers give coders lower-cost access to Heroku's Postgres cloud database service

Salesforce.com's Heroku division this week rolled out two entry-level tiers for its Postgres-based cloud database service, hoping to cater to applications with lower data-volume requirements, as well as helping startup developers make an easier jump into production.

The new Crane level of the database service costs $50 per month, with a 400MB RAM cache. Next up from there is the new Kappa tier, which costs $100 per month and has an 800MB cache.

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Both include the same array of features for supporting production deployments found in Heroku's higher-cost plans, such as continuous protection, where database activity is committed to write-ahead logs for quick recovery in the event of a hardware failure; improved security; and "production-grade" monitoring.

Previously, those wishing to jump from Heroku's free version to a paid, production-ready plan had to pay $200 per month for the Ronin edition. Last week, Heroku upgraded the free edition, adding in some developer-friendly features but omitting others available in its production versions.

The Crane and Kappa tiers are now in public beta and can be used at no charge during the beta period, Heroku said.

One 1TB of storage is provided with each Heroku database, regardless of the tier.

"What we found is that's more than enough for 99.9 percent of our customers," said Matt Soldo, product manager of Heroku Postgres. However, "we're thinking about how we can support folks who go beyond that," Soldo added.

One potential way is by providing guidance to customers on how they can effectively divide, or "shard" their databases across multiple instances on Heroku, he said.

Heroku charges for its production tiers based on RAM because "Web apps, [available RAM] turns out to be critical for speed," he said. Over time, the cost of networking and storage is going to drop to the point it's "effectively free," he said.

The highest-level database tier now offered by Heroku costs $6,400 per month and provides 68GB of caching.

But the two new tiers were the "number-one requested feature" from Heroku's user base, Soldo said. "Going from zero to $200 per month is a serious jump for certain types of customers."

That could mean not only startups, but also companies that may be running large portfolios of Web applications that don't necessarily get bombarded with traffic. "To have a $200-per-month database on all of those might not be economically feasible," he said.

Salesforce.com bought Heroku in 2010, a move that built on its own homegrown Force.com development platform. Heroku gave Salesforce.com entry to the many Ruby language developers that reflect Heroku's roots, but the service also now offers support for applications written in Java and Python.

That year, Salesforce.com also unveiled Database.com, a pay-as-you-go service based on Force.com's underlying data store, which in part uses Oracle's database platform.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.

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